The role of the basal ganglia in the coordination of different body segments and utilization of motor synergies was investigated by analyzing reaching movements to remembered three-dimensional (3D) targets in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). Arm movements were produced alone or in combination with a forward bending of the trunk, with or without visual feedback. Movements in PD patients were more temporally segmented, as evidenced by irregular changes in tangential velocity profiles. In addition, the relative timing in the onsets and offsets of fingertip and trunk motions were substantially different in PD patients than in control subjects. While the control subjects synchronized both onsets and offsets, the PD patients had large mean intervals between the onsets and offsets of the fingertip and trunk motions. Moreover, PD patients showed substantially larger trial-to-trial variability in these intervals. The degree of synchronization in PD patients gradually increased during the movement under the influence of visual feedback. The mean and variability of the intersegmental intervals decreased as the fingertip approached the target. This improvement in timing occurred even though the separate variability in the timing of arm and trunk motions was not reduced by vision. In combined movements, even without vision, the PD patients were able to achieve normal accuracy, suggesting they were able to use the same movement synergies as normals to control the multiple degrees of freedom involved in the movements and to compensate for the added trunk movement. However, they were unable to recruit these synergies in the stereotyped manner characteristic of healthy subjects. These results suggest that the basal ganglia are involved in the temporal coordination of movement of different body segments and that related timing abnormalities may be partly compensated by vision. Abnormal intersegmental timing may be a highly sensitive indicator of a deficient ability to assemble complex movements in patients with basal-ganglia dysfunction. This abnormality may be apparent even when the overall movement goal of reaching a target is preserved and normal movement synergies appear to be largely intact.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arm-trunk coordination
- Basal ganglia
- Movement synergies
- Parkinson's disease